Ok, we have a lot of experienced guys on here and I think that it would be valuable for everyone to list some recent workouts that have given a good pump, strength increase, or size to their shoulders (delts / traps).
This is a sometimes neglected area for a lot of trainees but in my opinion one of the key components to a truely impressive physique. When you see someone with bowling ball shoulders and jacked up traps it just looks "strong".
Here are some of my favorites:
Wrist Rotating Front Raises - Front Delts (The trick is to turn your fists down as you reach the top of the motion, so that it is almost like you are pouring out a glass of water once your arms are at 90 degrees to your body).
Wide Grip Upright Rows / High Pulls - Traps and Rear Delts
Non Supported Smith Machine Seated Presses - Delts (sitting on a flat bench with no back support, bar down to collar bone and full lockout, high reps with a light weight as a "finisher").
Dumbell Military Presses - Delts (This is my "heavy" movement for shoulders, along with the wide grip upright rows).
Shoulder "21's" - Delts (Similar to the popular biceps movement, you pick a weight that you could probably side raise for 10 strict reps and then perform seated rear delt bent over raises, seated side raises, and then standing front raises for 7 reps on each movement without any rest between sets. Another good "finisher")
Looking forward to see what kind of other programs everyone is working with out there...
Great thread idea Tom!
Here's what I do that seems to work well for me:
-DB OH Press- just as above in Tom's post
-Olympic pulls/Olympic movements- Keeping lats flexed during the pull, dynamic hard shrug at the top, and keeping the weight balanced overhead(which involves trap and upper back engagement). Correctly executed O-lifts should leave your entire back super pumped and tired.
Last edited by ZenMonkey; 03-03-2009 at 02:08 PM.
This may sound boring, but standing military press for shoulders; side and front raises never really did much for me. For traps, I've never felt a pump and soreness like I did after doing power cleans.
Pete - when talking about building shoulders do you prefer to do them standing? I do push jerks, push presses, and strict presses but those are for strength. When my goal is hypertrophy generally the seated variation is what I will go with.
Not sure if side and front raises ever did a lot for me but I always did them, and always did a lot of pressing as well. Used to have crazy striations in my shoulders when I was more lean and the side raises would definitely bring those out in the gym.
Power cleans are the only exercise that has ever made my traps sore, along with maybe car deadlift but that is not practical for most guys to do in the gym.
Car deadlifts sound awesome, but regular heavy deadlifts can really hammer your traps as well.
I agree with you Pete. It seems like for some reason the trap bar always hits my traps a little harder... I guess maybe that is why they call it a trap bar!
Have gotten away from heavy dumbell seated presses but I think that I am going to bring them back. Those were always a favorite of mine.
Hang Cleans- Easily my favorite trap/delt exercise.
Bent rows and bench pressing.
Handstand pushups are probably my favourite shoulder exercise.
For sure. I'm in no way a powerlifter or strongman but I like his description of them as an "every now and then" sort of exercise. I wanted to know whether more experienced guys thought there would be any value in doing these. Whether there would be any positive carry-over to other lifts? The stabilization is required in the wrists and arms, not the core, so it would be very different to pressing while on a ball. Maybe more beneficent for lifting awkward objects? I know Keith pressed over 315 so he must have been doing something right!
Is it beneficial for an athlete to do? Maybe, if you are in a sport that requires a lot of wrist strength and you are not able to wear wrist wraps. Most powerlifters and strongmen will use wraps to support their joints on heavy pressing.
Not a knock on Keith since obviously it has worked for him - I just wouldn't want to see a beginner trainee getting hurt or damaging gym equipment trying to attempt the exercise.
Let's bring up another topic - is anyone on here still doing behind-the-neck presses or jerks? I have done some BTN jerks but didn't like them because the negative portion of the lift felt unsafe...
I'm thinking of incorporating them into my routine every couple of weeks. SOHP, seated DB press, BHOHP (behind the head OHP) and face pulls.
Give chalk a chance.
49 years old
Standing on an uneven surface or using a tricky implement will require greater balance and control therefore forcing you to engage more muscle within that specific muscle group.
If push jerks built huge shoulders then most olympic lifters would have delts bigger than their heads. Unfortunately many people have the misconception that push presses are a great excercise for shoulders when in reality it is a lot more legs and triceps when done correctly. **My push press is about 50 lbs stronger than my seated military press.
Now I am not saying you should be balancing on a basketball trying to press a bag of sand over your head like some kind of circus freak - but that isolation movements do have their place in every program, especially if you are focusing on hypertrophy goals.
Shoulders are a sometimes overlooked bodypart but to me can be one of the most impressive aspects of your physique. Larger, more seperated shoulders can even give the perception of bigger arms.
That is my opinion and observation on things... what are other's thoughts?
I see that rbtrout brought up face pulls - a great exercise for shoulder pre-hab! For those who are not already doing them they should be included in every routine... especially if you are moving some big weight for OHP's.
Maybe there is some confusion here, I am a huge proponent of variation and like to have a good mix of heavy training which can include loose form as well as isolated bodypart training. On something like standing military press it is very easy to involve your low back, legs, calves, triceps, etc. and neglect actually contracting and engaging your deltoids.
Many bodybuilders will utilize machines to isolate their shoulders and do their heavy work with free weights. I like to use free weights for both and so this solution works pretty well.
I assume when you say "bodybuilders" you are talking about routines in magazines, things you have seen online, or perhaps some of the bigger guys in your gym. Unfortunately big does not always = knowledgable. Many of these guys rely on other factors and may not have the best training practices.
Right now I am much stronger than a lot of guys who know way more about strength training than I do. It just so happens that my knowledge, determination, and genetics took me to this point - but that doesn't mean that my opinions are "better" than theirs, unless there is a practical explanation as to why.
Found a good shoulder training resouce that I will post below, check it out!
Which Shoulder Exercises are Most Effective ?
For Each Shoulder Exercise it is Very Important you Lower the Weighs Under Complete Control
The lowering part of all lifts is called the eccentric phase. During the eccentric phase, muscles are lengthening under resistance. As previously mentioned, muscles in your shoulder and your rotator cuff will be subject to extreme forces if you do not perform each shoulder exercise with correct form.
For any shoulder exercise to be effective, form must be correct and the weights must be under control. This will allow you to work the right shoulder muscles and reduce the risk of injury.
Standing Iso-lateral Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The standing iso-lateral (one side at a time) dumbbell shoulder press could be the best shoulder exercise. Many people are limited by one side which is stronger than the other.
If you use the iso-lateral dumbbell shoulder press as your primary shoulder exercise, you will find out if both your arms and shoulders are the same strength. You will also get a tremendous workout for your core.
Start: Stand in front of a mirror with your feet together, touching each other. On your non dominant side, hold a dumbbell up to 90 degrees out to your side. Your palms should face forward. Keep your hips and shoulders completely 100% level for the duration of the movement. Contract your glutes, and draw in your core for the duration of this movement.
Begin the motion: Push the dumbbell straight up to the ceiling. In the finishing position the dumbbell should be slightly outside your shoulder. Lower the dumbbell back to the original position.
In order for this to be one of the most effective shoulder exercises, you must have your shoulders completely level for the entire set. If you can not, you should use a lighter weight. If you do not feel it in your core your form is incorrect.
Modifications: If the iso-lateral dumbbell shoulder press is not tough enough for you, you can stand on an unstable surface such as a BOSU ball.
The standing military press or barbell shoulder press has long been one of the most effective shoulder exercises. Your core and total body stabilization will be used for the standing military press.
Military presses don't isolate the medial deltoids, but they allow you to use a significant load (weight) that works the majority of your shoulder muscles, as well as the upper chest.
Start: From a standing position have a barbell racked slightly below shoulder level. Grab the barbell and unrack it with your palms facing away from your body. Your grip should wider than shoulder width, but no wider than the distance from your shoulder to your elbow out to the side.
Begin the motion: Take a deep breath and push the weight upwards. The weight should never be very far away from your body. As you push the weight up to the finishing position, the bar should be right above the top of your head.
Modifications: You can also perform the military press from a seated position. The same rules apply. Do not let your back arch which means you lose core stabilization and your lower back is at risk.
Your arms can be fully extended at the top or slightly bent. If you fully extend your arms, you will actually use the trapezius and triceps a little more. If you are trying to isolate your deltoids, it is best to stop the ascent before you fully extend your arms which will cause you to elevate your shoulders and work the trapezius.
It is very important that you keep your glutes contracted tightly and your core drawn in during the military press. If you do not do these 2 things, you will not only put your lower back at risk, but you will exercise the wrong muscles and possibly lead to muscle imbalances and posture problems.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The dumbbell shoulder press could be the most effective shoulder exercise. Since your head will never be in the close proximity of the weights, you can have more medial deltoid involvement than the military press.
Start: Set up a bench to where the back is around 90 degrees or slightly less. Have the dumbbells on your thighs towards your knees. Slowly lift one knee at a time with the dumbbell on them up to your arms. Keep your elbows in while you grab the dumbbells and bring your arms out to the side of your body to a 90 degree angle.
The dumbbells should be in line with your ears on either side of you. Keep your core drawn in towards the back of the bench for the duration of this effective shoulder exercise.
Begin the motion: Push the weights up in the air. The natural motion of the dumbbells will bring them towards your head. As the dumbbells approach the area right above you shoulders slowly lower them back to the original position and repeat.
Modifications: You can perform the dumbbell shoulder press from a standing position, on a stability ball, balanced on 1 foot or any other way which will challenge stabilization.
If you bring the dumbbells all the way together at the top of the motion, the trapezius will take away work from the deltoids. It is best to lower the dumbbells before this position because you can work the traps with isolation exercises.
Dumbbell Arnold Press
It will probably not come as a surprise that the Arnold press is named after famous bodybuilder, actor turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. What makes the Arnold press one of the most effective shoulder exercises is the Arnold press works in all 3 planes of motion, the transverse, frontal and sagittal planes.
Start: Begin with half of the weight you would use for the dumbbell shoulder press. Bring the dumbbells up to a position right in front of your shoulders and close to your body. Your palms should face towards you.
Begin the motion: Rotate your arms out to the side. As you begin the rotation, slowly begin to push the dumbbells towards ceiling. When you reach the top the dumbbells should touch. Your palms should face away from your body.
While the dumbbells are directly above your head, rotate your arms around all the way until your palms face you. Then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the exact original position.
Modifications: There are many different ways to perform the Arnold press. Make sure you use strict form and lower the weights under total control. The dumbbells should be very close to your body for the duration of the movement.
There are many ways to perform the Arnold press. This version is a great way to dynamically work all the shoulder muscles in multiple planes of motion safely.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell lateral raises are an exercise 95% of the people in the gym perform incorrectly. They are the most effective shoulder exercise to isolate the medial deltoids. If performed improperly the anterior deltoids get most of the work.
Start: Use a light pair of dumbbells. Position the dumbbells at your side. Keep a very slightly bend in your arm.
Begin the motion: Rotate your arms internally slightly. To keep the medial deltoid under tension maintain this internal rotation of the humerus at this exact position for the entire duration of the movement.
Raise your arms laterally (to the side) until the dumbbells are at shoulder level. When your arms are at shoulder level the middle crease of our arm should be directly up and down.
Modifications: You can perform lateral raises with resistance tubes, bungee cords, cables, cans of beans, or whatever resistance you want. Just make sure you maintain the correct form to isolate your medial deltoids.
How are Some Shoulder Exercises are Most Effective ?
The most Effective Shoulder Exercises for You Depend on your Goals. First and foremost, the most important aspect of any shoulder exercise is safety. The shoulders are most mobile and least stable joint in the body. The shoulders are prone to traumatic and overuse injuries. A shoulder injury makes it very difficult for you to do any upper body weight training. Sometimes shoulder injuries make it difficult to even do leg exercises.
Any shoulders exercise risks injury if you perform it improperly. The key most effective shoulder exercises is the use of good form and proper tempo. The most effective shoulder exercises have less risk for injury and attempt to isolate the medial deltoid, which gets less work with chest and back exercises.
When Should You do the Most Effective Shoulder Exercises ?
It is Best to Perform a Shoulders Workout Separately Your shoulders are under stress during most upper body exercises. Since your shoulders have much to do with chest and back exercises, it is best to do the most effective shoulder exercises after a day of rest.
You should never do a shoulder workout the day before or after your chest workout. You can do your shoulder exercises as part of a chest or back workout but let them recover with a day of complete rest for your upper body for proper shoulder development and less chance of injury.
"Standing on an uneven surface or using a tricky implement will require greater balance and control therefore forcing you to engage more muscle within that specific muscle group."
Doobs - maybe my perspective here is throwing things off a bit. I am in agreement with everything that you are saying. From the viewpoint of someone who has reached a fairly elite level in strength, for me to try to be "strict" with a movement I need to introduce new methodologies - especially when working with a movement where it is easy to involve other muscle groups i.e. triceps during overhead pressing.
Because I do place some importance on hypertrophy training outside of my strength / speed work, I will incorporate "bodybuilding" movements but generally do them with a "functional" twist where I will make the movement more challenging and force a slow tempo and great amount of control. I am already doing a ton of overload with my power workouts.
As a bodybuilder - you want to lift very heavy weights and the best way to do this would be a movement where something else is not going to limit you (for instance having core limitations because you are doing standing presses). If you are an athlete (strength athlete, etc.) who is looking to do some bodybuilding movements - then I believe that doing modified movements can be beneficial. My core will never limit me on a "strict overhead press" but for someone who doesn't do heavy overhead work with other techniques it may be a factor.
Here is an article that sums things up pretty well:
Unstable Surfaces and Performance
Source: AFPA Website
The question and the controversy are whether or not training on unstable surfaces, i.e. wobble boards etc. really do improve performance in sport. A recent article in the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning seemed to de-emphasize the importance and effectiveness of this type of training. The fact is that at this time there is no clinical evidence that training on unstable surfaces actually improves sport performance. The important concept to understand is that almost everything boils down to “Specificity”. If an athlete practices throwing a medicine ball on a foam roller he, or she, will ultimately become very good at throwing a ball on a foam roller. According to the article the transfer effect to throwing a ball with power and accuracy on the playing field may simply not exist. This is because when we learn a new skill we do so slowly and as we practice we are able to do it faster and more efficiently. What results is a specific neuromuscular pattern the author refers to as an engram. When we introduce a new variable like a wobble board two things happen. First, time that could be spent on the needed skill is not used and secondly we may wind up confusing the original neuromuscular movement pattern. The result can actually be a decrease in performance.
Strength gains may also be reduced on an unstable surface. If one wants to get stronger he or she must load the muscle with the right amount of resistance to recruit enough muscle fibers. When we strength train on unstable surfaces we use less weight which decreases the muscular force output, and reduces the overload and specific fiber recruitment necessary to make the appropriate strength gains. If the athlete wants to get big then use unstable training surfaces sparingly. Time may be better spent lifting heavier weight and performing multiple sets.
In addition muscular adaptations are also specific to the resistance and the velocity used. Unstable surfaces usually require the exerciser to use less weight and move at a slower pace to have a real transfer effect on sport performance. The effect on core stabilization is also in question especially for athletes and athletic individuals. While performing exercises on this type of surface may be difficult at first eventually the exercise may become to easy which will lead to accommodation. Prolonged accommodation can actually produce a detraining effect. In addition it is difficult to progressively load an exercise performed on an unstable surface. At some point a heavy load may become unsafe. Performing a heavy shoulder press while standing on a stability ball may be a difficult task to master but has little transfer to most activities and can be highly dangerous.
With all that has been said against unstable training surfaces it is important to remember that everything has a time and a place in a training cycle. Balance and stability training are often neglected but essential elements in an athlete’s training program. The art is to recognize when it is appropriate and necessary. Don’t be afraid to use unstable training equipment as another modality in your expanding toolbox. Remember that new research is always being conducted. Next month researchers may conclude that training on unstable surfaces is without a doubt the most effective way to improve sports performance. Ultimately it comes down to you and I keeping current with the research, learning from other strength coaches and most importantly, learning from our own experiences, both successes and failures.
Other types of equipment can be very helpful as well. Medicine balls, various rubber bands, kettle bells, Indian clubs, dumbbells, sandbags, weight vests and other unconventional pieces of equipment have all resulted in some improvements in muscular strength and power. Ultimately a real understanding of program design and exercise science coupled with a knowledge of the client’s/athlete’s needs, abilities, and psychology will have the greatest “functional” effect on overall performance.
As you will see this "functional" training may not have any carryover to performance on an athletic field. Should have been more specific in my original post that what I was suggesting would be good for a powerlifting, olympic lifter, or strongman who was looking to do some bodybuilding training - because these groups are so used to using explosive power to move weights that it can be hard to change over to slow tempo controlled lifting. I firmly believe that stability work forces you to isolate muscle groups, and that it does have a place in your routine - just like heavy training does as well. I have had a "keg press" in a strongman contest where water swishes around inside of the implement and can say that for that event there was no such thing as explosive lifting and the guy who won was a personal trainer who does a ton of stability and core work.
Bottom line - variation is key! And this thread has a ton of great movements here.
Im gonna give this one a try. My shoulder workout is kinda beat and I don't seen any difference.
i start off with
behind the neck press 4 sets pyramid getting pretty heavy on the last one
dumbell shoulder press 4 sets as above
front raises ss with lateral raises 3-4 sets
lying raises(idk what else to call them) for the rear delts 3 sets
i usually super set another 4 sets on the reverse pec deck with dumbell shrugs
im thinking about changing it up a little bit and begin doing standing barbell military press
Last edited by duswdav; 03-07-2009 at 10:20 PM.
I do almost the same stuff. Minus the 21's. Good workout.